• Kylie Mitchell-Smith

The Rebirth of Cool

From the Bay to the border, discover the burgeoning array of revitalised and retro-chic motels and hotels beckoning for an endless summer vacay or seaside soiree.

Are we there yet? Ah, the glory days, crammed in a Holden car, wind in the hair on that great Australian road trip, dreaming of a sleepover at a comfy coastal sleeping bolt.

Fast forward to now, and a classic motel and hotel revival is happening on the Northern Rivers — one where all that is old is new again, complete with kidney-shaped pools, breakfast bars and room side parking.

Quintessential beachside towns dotted along the North Coast are paying homage to their retro abodes. Hoteliers and local families are snapping up an array of outdated motels, to tastefully renovate and reinvigorate them with enviable style.

There’s all the hallmarks of vintage style, delivered with a modern twist — think pastel hues, plush furnishings, pop up espresso trucks, chic cabanas, quirky astroturf gardens, Besser block facades, and fresh and funky poolside sun lounges.

A vintage neon sign still lights the way to most, to a time where Tequila sunrise days floated seamlessly into sunset nights. And it’s all about the vibe!

The Sails Motel &

Pool Club

One of the first motels on the North Coast to undergo a facelift, The Sails Motel in Brunswick Heads has been tastefully restored to accentuate its former beauty.

Marine inspired hues, retro arches and all the fine touches welcome you upon arrival. A styled motel reception, pop up artisan boutique, and classic motel pool have been rejigged for the modern traveller who can check in to chill out.

Adjacent to the motel is Saint Marie’s, a bustling pizzeria and bar and a hop and skip up the road is Old Maids Café and Burger Bar and La Casita Mexican Cantina.

Choose from a classic queen room to a two-bedroom apartment, upstairs or downstairs; take your pick, complete with driveway to room parking.


The Sunseeker Motel

A reimagined 1980’s exposed brick motel, The Sunseeker in Byron Bay offers boutique accommodation with a nostalgic twist. A home away from home, the motel has a relaxed, authentic style resulting from a collective of local makers, artists, and craftspeople.

With an emphasis on community and preserving the Bay’s unique lifestyle, The Sunseeker is a place to stay and play a while. Choose from well-appointed open plan rooms, two-bedroom suites, family rooms or timber-clad bungalows set in the lush tropical surrounds.

Enjoy a classic kidney-shaped mineral pool and the tiki-inspired poolside bar and communal fire pit, the place to gather as night is falling. Considered use of sustainable materials and recycling practises ensures this chic motel will stand the test of time.


Eltham Hotel

Stepping back in time, the Eltham Hotel evokes memories of a simple life, where the country pub was the central heartbeat to the village.

Located in the Byron Hinterland, the makeshift gravel carpark unfolds onto the double story federation Hotel, with all the feels of a Baz Lurhmann movie set.

The owners, Luke Sullivan, Matt Rabbidge and his wife, Julia Ashwood (of celebrated travel and lifestyle blog and brand, The Vista), have retained the hotel’s original charm and added a sprinkle of their authentic style. The beer is cold, the food is fresh, the pool tables are loaded, and the beer garden is a hive of activity.

Upstairs, the eclectic and individually styled rooms are decadent and vintage-inspired, with each room designed to tell a story. Retro fittings like cheval mirrors complement classic red velvet furnishings and colourful touches.

Aptly named after local women who made their mark on the region (think Rhonda, Patsy and Estelle), the Eltham Hotel oozes a country and western with a modern-day twist.


Chalet Motel

Brunswick Heads, the quieter riverside town North of Byron Bay, is enjoying a renaissance of new openings including a plethora of funky boutique accomodations — and one of the coolest of the lot is Chalet Motel.

The Chalet Motel is ideally located close to the heart of town, and offers casual accommodation with plenty of retro-chic touches featured throughout.

A short stroll to the river, beach, and the town centre, the Chalet is the older sister to the newly refurbished Blue Water Motel in Kingscliff (read on for more on that!) and exudes those endless summer vibes.

Complete with a saltwater pool, cute cabanas and thoughtfully styled rooms, Chalet Motel is as tranquil as it is colourful.


Blue Water Motel

From the moment you enter the Blue Water Motel in Kingscliff you are teleported to another time, another place. The entrance is oozing with nostalgia, from the lemon vintage truck converted to an espresso bar to the kitsch pelican sculptures and quirky musings that adorn the pastel walls.

Blue Water Motel has been thoughtfully brought back to life by renowned Australian interior design and styling icon Jason Grant, exuding his contemporary style and coastal charm.

Owned and operated by a passionate local team (who also have the Chalet Motel in their portfolio), the rooms are comfortably cool, both in their space and in their style.

A warm pastel palette, in-room breakfast bar with supersized gas strut window, manicured tropical gardens and retro shaped pool all add to the appeal.



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